David McCullough Essay Prizes

David McCullough in 2019

The Gilder Lehrman Institute is pleased to announce the winners of the 2021 David McCullough Essay Prizes. Named for David McCullough, Pulitzer and National Book Award–winning historian and member of the Gilder Lehrman Institute Board of Trustees, and honoring his career telling America’s stories and examining its histories, this contest recognizes outstanding high school student research essays with cash prizes of up to $10,000.

2021 Contest Winners

More than seventy rising 11th and 12th grade students in our National Academy of American History and Civics submitted an original essay written over the summer or from the past academic year that was revised, expanded, or adapted to conform with the McCullough Prize specifications. These entries were reviewed by a panel of our master teachers, with twenty-three finalists then reviewed by a jury of historians. 

The twelve prize winners, including links to their entries, are as follows:

First Prize and $10,000: Liliana Hug, Salamander Meadows Homeschool (Ohiopyle, PA), for the essay “The Silent Spring That Sparked a Thunderous Uproar: How Rachel Carson’s Scientific Communication Ignited the American Environmental Movement

Second Prize and $5,000: Daksha Pillai, Paul Laurence Dunbar High School (Lexington, KY), for the essay “United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind: Dual Legacies of a Forgotten Supreme Court Case

Third Prize, with special jury distinction, and $1,000: Riya Ranjan, Monta Vista High School (Cupertino, CA), for the essay “‘The Woman Identified Woman’: Intersectional Liberation

Third Prize and $1,000 (nine additional winners, listed alphabetically)

  1. Alexis Cornett, Milford High School (Highland, MI), for “The ‘Proper Timidity and Delicacy’ of Women: How Bradwell v. Illinois Reflected the Ingrained Sexism of 19th-Century America
  2. Sophie Gala, J. R. Masterman Senior High School (Philadelphia, PA), for “‘An Urgent Appeal’: Communication in W. E. B. Du Bois’ Work as Crisis Editor
  3. Marisa Hirschfield, The Fieldston School (New York, NY), for “A United Construction: Whiteness in The Birth of a Nation and The Jazz Singer
  4. Victoria Li, Hunter College High School (New York, NY), for “‘This is a White Man’s Country’: Challenging and Communicating White Supremacy in 1898 Wilmington, North Carolina
  5. Mingyan Liu, Manhasset Secondary School (Manhasset, NY), for “Driving through the Finish Line: The Fight for Suffrage on Wheels
  6. Harry Murphy, St. Andrew’s School (Middletown, DE), for “The Consciousness of the Corporation: Assessing the Origins of an ‘Ethical Consciousness’ Among American Corporations in the 20th Century
  7. Gregory Perryman, Beachwood High School (Beachwood, OH) for “DuBois’s Talented Tenth and Garvey’s Back to Africa Movement Converge in Liberia
  8. Aysu Türkay, Sewickley Academy (Sewickley, PA), for “US Occupation in the Philippines: The Disconnect between Colonizer and Colonized, and a Different Type of Resistance
  9. Emerson Utgaard, Patrick Henry High School (San Diego, CA), for “‘Founding Contradictions’: Reflecting on American Values through Plyler v. Doe

Previous Winners